Dandy Warhols Captivate During Raucous Appearance at Bronson Centre

April 11th, 2016 by  |  Published in Concerts

Dandy Warhols

On Saturday, April 9th, I approached the Bronson center to see the Dandy Warhols just before 8pm, where there were already tons of people spread out around the premises, smoking and chatting in their separate groups. It was a funny sight, all those people, many in their late 30’s or 40’s, loitering with their cigarettes outside of the building, which had a very “rec hall” look going for it. I was instantly reminded of going to all-ages shows at rec halls and Lions Clubs back when I was in high school. It definitely had a nice nostalgic effect that set the tone for a good night.

I imagine many people were experiencing waves of nostalgia that night. The Dandy Warhols were a huge band in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, and much of the crowd appeared to consist of people who had grown up on them. There were plenty of younger people there too, and they were equally stoked, but there was a sense from some of the slightly older members of the audience that they had spent countless hours as teenagers zoned out in their rooms on Dandy records.

After I made my way through Bronson center’s gymnasium area and the twisting hallways of what felt like an old high school, I headed into the dark theatre and down to the main floor to get a good spot near the front for the opening act, the Seratones.

Seratones a groovy opener
I’d done a bit of listening beforehand, so I had a pretty good idea of what to expect. Rock ‘n’ roll with a bit of a southern stank on it. Their label had a bio for them which referred to the Shreveport, Louisiana band as “beasts of the Southern wild.” This turned out to be a pretty accurate description.

The first thing you notice about the Seratones are the incredible vocals of their front woman, AJ Haynes. They’re impossible to miss, rolling and crashing over the crowd.

On top of this, the instrumentals are tight and fairly eclectic, managing to switch up styles enough to keep the set interesting and dynamic. They started off with a few songs that began with groovy backings and smooth, soulful vocals, but would eventually explode into a fast-paced, spastic fit.

Their ability to effortlessly switch back-and-forth between slow grooves and hard, chunky rock riffs was impressive, but again, the vocals were the focal point. AJ’s control and power make her voice gigantic, but she also hits high, long, haunting notes that literally gave me full-body chills eight or nine times during their set.

The best highlight was during their final song when AJ put down her guitar and danced energetically around the stage, singing and smashing a tambourine into her palm. Eventually, she put it down and kept dancing and a man at the front picked it up and started playing it. This prompted her to dance near him and eventually just jump down onto the floor and run around in the crowd for the remainder of the song, to everyone’s complete delight. They were definitely a hit with the crowd, and everyone I walked by after their set seemed to be singing their praises.

Dandy Warhols don’t disappoint
When the Dandy Warhols got on stage, I was surprised at how minimal and compact their set up was. Sure, there were plenty of pedals and synths, but the band was packed into a tight little unit, and besides a large banner behind them and some pretty awesome lights, there wasn’t much in the way of a stage show; they didn’t need one.

Turns out, the sheer mass of their sound is enough of an experience on its own that a stage show would probably be unnecessary or redundant. The music comes in huge, sluggish waves that become almost meditative.

Something I noticed right away about the band was how in control they were, and how aware of that they seemed to be. I’d heard plenty of stories about frontman Courtney Taylor-Taylor having a tendency to indulge a little too much before performances, and he definitely has a reputation for being a bit of a wild character; but here, he seemed to be existing completely within his element.

Taylor-Taylor had a playful and somewhat “sassy” attitude going on, which fit well with his very androgynous appearance and vibe. At one point while tuning his guitar, someone yelled out, asking what was taking so long. “Why is it taking so long? This guitar is fifty fucking years old, that’s why it’s taking so long!” he retorted, voice dripping with mock-anger.

Some of these in-between moments were the best of the night, with the extremely laid-back attitude of the band creating an intimate atmosphere and experience. Taylor-Taylor bantered on about Canada and Ottawa, playfully recollecting “playing little shithole clubs” in reference to Zaphods. He also appealed to the crowd’s political side, saying: “We need a new president. Can we borrow your guy for . . . seven, eight years?” going on to say that the band definitely “Feel the Bern.”

The set, on the whole, had very heavy post-punk and psychedelic tones, with a masterful use of quirks and subtleties. Taylor-Taylor also played a particularly intimate/solo version of “Every Day Should Be A Holiday” with the crowd singing the chorus along with him, but the most powerful moments were always when the band was simultaneously wrapped up in the wall of sound they created together. The Dandy Warhols have a unique way of wielding the chaos of noise in a way that puts you at their mercy, and you’re completely fine with it.

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